Archive for March 22nd, 2012

March 22, 2012

Nevermind asking for Facebook passwords: Are social games the new HR recruitment strategy?

Social gaming is huge. Top Facebook game developer Zynga, reports over 220,000,000 monthly active users (MAU), with the remaining 39 of the Top 40 developers each reporting MAU numbers in the tens of millions. Recently, in my daily internet rummaging, I came across Marriott International’s Human Resources Careers page and was intrigued by the Facebook game they were promoting that targets college and university students. I was instantly impressed that they jumped into the world of social gaming with My Marriott Hotel, as this was the first time I’ve heard of an organization trying to recruit employees using social games.

The game itself is similar in concept to the highly-popular Farmville and Cityville games (both Zynga games). In My Marriott Hotel, users create their own restaurant, buy equipment and ingredients on a budget, hire and train employees, and serve guests.  You earn points for happy customers, and lose points for bad service. Your primary goal is to turn a profit.

Here’s a quick video that explains the game:

In a news release, Marriott International notes that this is their way of recruiting more Millennials – those born after January 1, 1982. The game enables the hotel giant to “showcase the world of opportunities and the growth potential attainable in hospitality careers, especially in cultures where the service industry might be less established or prestigious.”

What I find most interesting is how much information Marriott, as an employer, gathers on potential employees. To start, when authorizing the app, it asks  to “access your basic information: Including name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information you have made public.”  The Facebook Developers’ Policy expands on that information to  include  email, birthday, and current city. That’s a lot of information to start pre-screening your applicants.

Now pair this data with some of the in-game behaviour and they would get some new and unusual insights into potential hires. It’s brilliant, really. For example, in-game users get to decide the gender and ethnicity their supervisor and employees. Each and every finished product must be checked to make sure it meets quality standards. Ingredients must be ordered to make sure enough is on hand – but not too much that you are overstocked. And finally players must hire and train this staff to make sure they have a full brigade.

I’m not sure to what level they are using this information because when I contacted them (several phone calls, voicemails, and emails) I was told that the person responsible for leading that project has since left Marriott International and there is nobody internally who can comment on the game.

Am I reading too much into this? Perhaps. But it’s not outrageous to think that a multinational organization would put such an effort into getting the right employees. Recently, it’s been widely publicized that employers are now asking job candidates for Facebook usernames and passwords, and ethical questions have been raised. A more reasonable approach would be to “friend” the potential employee, or go the My Marriott Hotel route, and use the profile data and personal information gathered from Facebook games to access the details they may be after. After all, the cost of a bad hire is enormous. If social games can offer some insight to hiring managers, they are one step ahead of the rest.

But the problem with My Marriott Hotel is, and this may be part of the reason they didn’t want to provide a comment for this post, nobody is playing the game. According to www.appdata.com, over the last month My Marriott Hotel has 5 daily active users (DAU), which works out to about 200 monthly active users (MAU)… and one of those 5 DAUs was me. Their Facebook Careers page is pretty active, but the game is nowhere to be found.

The gameplay itself is instantly amusing, but that feeling wears off pretty quickly. I spent a few hours playing a number of rounds to see if it improved, but I eventually got bored and decided to stop.

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